September 2005 Archives

I am home

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After 17 hours in planes, and one short layover I am home. Tomorrow I work - fun fun..

My Last Post (probably)

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Today I played tourist and walked around Sydney. I saw the opera house (of course) and went to the zoo. All in all it was another sort of boring site seeing day..

The zoo was sort of interesting, you take a ferry from Circular Quay which takes about 10 minutes and gives you a view of the harbor. Once you arrive at the zoo you hop on a cable car which takes you to the top of hill which the zoo resides on. The view from the cable car is pretty decent and you also are taken over the zoo itself so you can look down at all of the exhibits.

Once you reach the top you basically walk back down to the ferry stop and check out the animal exhibits on the way down. I had never seen a Koala bear before so that was sort of interesting. I think they don't really exist, but are robots created by Japan to spy on people. They are the most bizarre looking things and they move very strangely (when they move at all). Anyway I also saw Kangaroos, and a platypus, as well as some poisonous snakes and a Tasmanian devil. I skipped most of the rest as I figure I live 2 miles from a free zoo that has all the same animals.

The rest of the day I just walked around a bit and looked at some shops and ate. Tonight I am in King's Cross which is the seedy part of town where most of the cheap backpacker accommodations are. There are lots of drug addicted people and sex shops, so it is a little interesting. Of course it is only about 7:30PM here so it is still quite tame. I probably wont be here much longer, going to head back to my hostel, pack and get ready for my 30 hours of travel home.

I am guessing this will be my last post - I am set to depart tomorrow at 2:45 PM on United, I will arrive in LA at 11:15 AM on the same day (gotta love the international date line). My flight out of LA gets me home around midnight and I have the great honor of working just 8 short hours later...

I will try and remember to post that I have arrived home safely for those of you who care.

Almost done

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Just thought I would throw up a quick update. Spent the day in Melbourne touring around and also relaxing. It is quite nice here, I think there is some rule that there needs to be a coffee shop or cafe every 100 feet or so. It is actually quite nice - since I am a big fan of cafes. They all also have outdoor seating which is nice, however the weather here is not really warm enough for that sort of thing. Today was probably in the lower 60s, pleasant, but a bit brisk.

I booked a flight on Qantas tomorrow at 9AM to Sydney which will give me from about 10AM until 8PM or so to tour Sydney. I suppose I could also get up early Wednesday morning and look at some stuff before my flight at 1:45. To tell you the truth I probably won't. I am a bit "toured" out now. Being in a large city and just walking around looking at stuff is interesting for about 1 hour, then it just gets rather boring and tough on the feet. I suppose I shot of the opera house and I can call it a day.

I am not sure if there will be another post - this might be it for my blog until I post some pictures in a week or two. I arrive back late Wednesday night the 28th if anyone is looking for me.

The land of Vegemite and stuff

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Wow, that is a lot of travel in 3 days, but the worst is behind me. It started with 2 hours from Lhasa to Chengdu, then 4 hours from Chengdu to Seoul the next day, followed by 10 hours from Seoul to Sydney yesterday. After my 10 hour flight I arrived in Sydney at 7AM, took the train downtown to meet Brendan, and immediately drove about 8 hours south towards Melbourne.

We made it as far as some small beach town called Eden and found a motel to sleep in. It was actually quite nice, it had the best shower I have seen on this trip and the owner even let me do laundry for free. I looked at TV for the first time in about 3 weeks and even caught most of Gladiator while I cleaned up the stuff in my pack and did my laundry for the rest of my trip.

This morning we got up bright and early and hit the road to finish our trip to Melbourne. I am checked into my hostel right now and am typing this from a computer in the basement. Brendan went to the suburbs to meet a friend of his where he will be staying for a couple of days, so I am my own again for a bit. I wandered around Melbourne which is a pretty nice city, it is actually quite small considering it has a population of over 4 million. I was able to see most of the main stuff today on foot in a couple of hours. Tonight my plan is to catch a movie (Red Eye) and this new Hoyts theatre near by. It is quite the theater, it has 3 different types of theaters within it. There is the directors room which has some sort of special seating and I think serves alcholic beverages, then there is the Halfpipe theater which is where I am seeing Red Eye. According to the ticket person the entire theater has bean bags for seats and is really neat - I wasnt sure I wasnt going to go, but how often do you get to see a movie in a theater in a beanbag so I bought a ticket for 9:10.

Other than that not too much is going on, tomorrow at 8AM I am going to get up and watch an american football game on the Television here, and then spend the rest of the day walking around Melbourne again I suppose. Brendan is meeting me at 6PM and we are going to check out this Crown Casino here which used to be the largest casino in the world (not sure when). It is currently billed as the "largest casino in the southern hemisphere" which really isnt saying much since I dont think Africa and South America are known as large gambling meccas.

I suppose that is all for me for a bit - tomorrow is my last day in Melbourne and I catch a flight the 27th to Sydney for one day of sightseeing, then I head home...


Quick update

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Made it safe and sound back to Incheon Airport... Plane departs to Sydney (my last leg of the trip) at 8:00 (Flight OZ601).

If anyone is looking for me Monday night in Melbourne I will be watching commercial free replays of American football and drinking beer...

OK I am out...

All these Updates and Pictures!

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OK - this might be the last time I have decent internet access so you get two long updates, and Pictures!! Read below and then check out some shots, sorry no time to caption.

Most of the shots are tibet (including any beautiful scenery), the Pandas are Chengdu, and the last two are Korea (tonight).

http://www.oestreich.org/travel/The_end/index.html

Adventures in Seoul

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I arrived safely tonight for my short trip to Seoul. It was a bit of an adventure getting into Seoul from Incheon airport (about one hour away). Everything went as planned until I boarded the bus, my directions said take bus 601-2 to the Sungkyunkwan University stop. Now that sounds easy enough, until you realize the the bus driver is not going to speak any English, and that Koreans dont use the same alphabet as us so even showing him the name of the Universtity is probably also useless. Fortunately a fair number of Koreans speak English so I started asking my fellow bus mates. A flight attendant was able to help me, and together we realized that I was on the wrong bus. I was on the 602 bus not the 602-1 bus. Never mind that they have an entire selection of numbers from 1 to 1,000,000 for numbering buses, yet they have to have a 602 and a 602-1 bus both stop at the same bus stop...couldn't have just made on 603? She asked the bus driver what to do and he answered, she told me it would be OK, I could transfer. Now in my mind this meant some sort of bus stop would be involved, and maybe a transfer slip of some sort. Nope, at the next toll plaza I was told ok, quick get off - the next bus will be coming soon. It all happened rather fast, and shortly I found myself sitting at a 10 lane toll plaza in the middle of South Korea at about 8PM, not exactly sure what I should do - bus assuming a bus would eventually know to pick up some white kid on the side of the road. After what seemed like 100 buses went by one did pull up and open its door, and low and behold it was the 602-1. This still left me with a bit of a dilema, mainly how to explain to this bus driver that I need to stop at Sungkyunkwan University. I showed him the words, and attempted to pronounce it and he looked like he knew what I meant and said, yes OK... I sat down still a little paranoid that maybe he was just doing what I do when someone speaks to me in a language I dont understand which is to smile and nod. I asked some other people on the bus, and became the center of attention near my seat. About three people attempted to patch together enough English to understand where I wanted to go, and to relay this to the bus driver. We finally all got on the same page and the bus driver told the others that he was aware of my stop and would make sure I got off. By this point I think the entire bus knew which stop I was going to get off at - and eventually I made it.

Tonight I have been wandering around Korea, my hostel is right in the center of a huge university area so there a thousands of kids everywhere. Its actually a very cool place - with lots of really interesting restaurants, etc.. Unfortunately I dont know how to read Korean and I am alone so I have really just been looking. I did eat some food from a street vendor - some sort of boiled fish cake thing which I dipped in really hot peppers they provide in a bowl (everyone in Korea double dips by the way) I took a picture but I dont have USB at this place so I cant upload.

I am amazed at how westernized Seoul is, for desert I had Smoothie King (I know soooo Korean). I have seen Popeyes, Starbucks, Outback, TGI Fridays, KFC (of course KFC is everywhere) Pizza hut, etc. It is a huge change from Chengdu (and of course from Tibet) as neither of these places is very westernized. I believe Chengdu has a population of around 4 million, and I think I only saw one KFC, and one pizza hut, and not much else.

I have really been paying attention to globalization on this trip and how different places have accepted or not accepted it. I have almost finished this book (The Lexus and the Olive Tree) which I highly recommend if you have any interest in Globalization and how different cultures have and should adapt. I am a strong believer that globalization is a good force - and will result in a higher standard of life for everyone on this planet, but I am little worried about what it is doing to other cultures. At this rate sometime in the not to distant future world travel will be pointless, as everywhere will be the same. Huge global chains like Mcdonalds, starbucks, etc.. will be everywhere, and everywhere will be exactly the same (Chris, if you are reading this far I know this would be Utopia for you). It is something I have really been paying attention to - and you can really see the differences in different countries.

Anyway that is all from for a bit - tomorrow at 8PM I fly to Sydney. I arrive their at 7PM and head for the downtown Hertz location to meet Brendan - we are then heading right out of town for Melbourne for a few days. Looks like I will be flying back to Melbourne around the 27th to check out Sydney for a couple of days and then I head home... I guess I have less than one week left, in many ways time has really flown by, but in part of me feels like I was in Denmark years ago.

Just a quick update

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I made it back safely from Lhasa, going to attempt to catch my flight here in Chengdu shortly. Saw a crapload of Pandas this morning. Tonight I arrive in South Korea, tomorrow I fly to Sydney...

Back from Nam Tso Lake

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Alright I made it back safe and sound. The Lake was very beautiful, I suppose sort of like Alaska in many ways with some Tibetan touches. There were huge mountain ranges all around the lake, and the lake itself was a brilliant blue like the cleanest ocean (its a saltwater lake). There were also some amazing cloud formations to be seen and you could see much of the sky in all directions. Although it was pleasant most of the time where we were it we could see at least two other areas getting high levels of rain.

The ride up to the lake was interesting as well, we had a guide who spoke no english, which I suppose really makes him a driver. He let us stop a few times to take pictures on the way - there were some amazing landscapes, and a lot of yaks and sheep along the way. There was also some sort of small river running along the road that looked like it had at least some class III rapids. We passed through a couple of small towns which were interesting (and not really that nice) and also made one stop at the gate to buy a ticket into the park (about $5). There were a number of little kids begging for money at the gate, so I decided to give them some candy, when word got out I had no less than 15 kids (and 2 old women) swarming around me with their hands out. At one point they were even pulling on my pockets and shirt trying to get candy. Its was a little disconcerting, but eventually our driver yelled something in Tibetan and they dispersed.

We continued up the road to the highest point (17,027 feet - or roughly 3.2 miles above sea level). We were only about 10,000 feet lower than the highest point of Mount Everest. We then went down to the Lake which was about 900 feet lower. We were able to actually get decent accommodations, we were in a restaurant that had some extra rooms. We had a small room with 3 beds (Only three of us made it - one of the English guys was not feeling well enough to make the trip). We tried to eat some dinner, but the menu had direct translations from Chinese which made it very hard to understand, we stuck mostly to the bread and jam we brought with.

We walked about a mile along the lakeshore and back, and also climbed up some of the smaller mountains along the lakeshore to get a better view. I took a lot of pictures as the scenery was amazing.

We all felt pretty good going into the night, maybe a slight headache and also a little dizzy. Its also amazing how the lack of oxygen affects your ability to do just about anything. I find myself winded after going up even three flights of stairs to my hostel in Lhasa and you have 20% more oxygen there than at the Lake. We were all pretty exhausted after walking around all day (what would normally be a light day for me). I went to bed around 9:30 feeling pretty good.

Around 3AM I awoke and felt a little queasy - however I remembered that the bathroom was about 600 feet away (outside) and I also remembered it was about 20 degress and windy outside, so I just held it. I awoke again around 6AM, and there was no way to I could wait, my stomach was churning and something was going to give. I threw on my headlamp, and my shoes and bolted for the door. It was quite dark out as I briskly walked towards the toilet. When I got about 20 feet away was greeted by the sounds of barking and growling coming from a rather large black and white dog that came out of nowhere. I continued my run for the bathroom (Nature won out over danger at this point) and got inside. Now mind you this is no western toilet - its a Chinese toilet - and one of the worst I have seen so far (and that is saying a lot). Here is a picture of something similar (of course this was made entirely of concrete, and there was no nice fancy white dividers - oh not to mention the floors were covered in various, lets say 'debris'). Now there was one saving grace, the dog would not even venture into this thing (of course there was no door) He just sat outside barking and growling the entire time I was inside. When I was finally finished - I knew what was ahead of me - a 600 foot walk with a growling angry dog chasing me the entire way.

The bathroom was elevated to some degree, so I stood about 10 feet tall on the ledge, which kept the dog at bay. Of course I knew I had to get off this ledge somehow so I walked to side and looked for some rocks. I grabbed two about 4 inches in diameter, and one that was twice the size of my hand. The second I got down from the bathroom the dog closed in and stood about two feet from me barking and growling madly. I walked slowly backwards keeping my eye on the dog and raised myself up as big as I could. I continued to yell "go home" at the dog (not that I thought he would listen, but the more noise I made and the bigger I looked the less likely the dog would be to attack - at least that was my thinking.) Finally I realized this wasn't working well so I threw on of the smaller rocks near the dog hoping to scare it. Not the best plan, the dog seemed to get angry at this and closed to about 1 foot and began growling even more. I hoped if I got far enough away from whatever he was trying to protect he would eventually leave me alone. I continued walking backwards ready to hit him with the big rock if he lunged at me - around this time I heard some more barking coming from behind the dog (probably about 100 feet away). The dog stopped barking and turned back about 5 feet to either acknowledge, attack, or recruit the other dog - I have no idea. I saw my chance and bolted for the door of our place (about 300 feet) and slammed the door behind me.

I collapsed into one of the chairs outside our room, and all I could do was sit as I was so out of breath (running at that altitude is almost impossible). Dean came out of the room to ask me what he hell was going on (he had heard the barking, my yelling, and the sound of me running and slamming the door). We had a good laugh about it all and I went back to bed. These are the kind of things that happen when you are on the road I guess, and I escaped unscathed with a good story to tell...

Last post from Tibet for a while

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OK - you can all laugh at me now... I dont even know how I got the expression on my face but it pretty much sums up my trip so far in Tibet. I have been eating quite a few yak burgers (its all yak meet up here) and they are tasty and probably the most western food I have eaten since I left.

Last night some crazy Mountaineer guy was telling us horror stories of climbing up in altitude too much too fast. He basically said we are crazy to go to Nam Tso lake after only being in Lhasa 3 days to adjust to the altitude. Apparently we are guaranteed headaches and possible nausea at the best case (I guess at least one kid was wandering around delirious, and another had his entire face turn blue was only able to breath well with supplied oxygen you can usually buy at the top). The other problem is that to get down you have to drive four hours, and you have to climb another 200 meters over a pass so really you dont have much choice but to tough out the night. We decided that we might want to prepare a little more so we started a quest to find some diamox (a prescription diuretic that survival people, etc.. take when they are forced to climb high fast) we have managed to get some Europeans, so we began taking it today. Hopefully between this and resting for the day we will be OK.

Other than that a pretty uneventful day, bought some supplies for our trip, and also hit the market to look for souvenirs. I will try and post more pictures later but I might be unavailable for a while because I have 2 days at Nam Tso then the next day I fly to Chengdu, then the day after that I fly to South Korea, I will try and be in touch.

Pictures!

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In order from Left to right and top to bottom

Leshan Buddha, Leshan Buddha and me, Gardens near Buddha, Funny sign, Buddha, Buddha, Polata Palace, near Polata palace, Lhasa, monks discussion, monks discussion, sera Monastery, Sera Monastery, Israeli Girl arguing with our airport ride, the crew from the airport, check out who this guy is waiting for, Chengdu China, Mao statue Chengdu, The food place I described by Chengdu bus stop cook, my meal at the place.

http://www.oestreich.org/travel/China/index.html

See below for new tibet update as well.

Tibet Update with more pictures

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Yesterday was pretty fun, I explored Lhasa with the two English guys and a guy from Norway. The English guys are crazy and a bunch of fun - they are about five months into a 6.5 month world tour and have a ton of crazy stories.

Yesterday we went to the Sera Monastery, its really beautiful. We also checked out the daily sessions where the monks go to have philosophical debates. It was rather interesting, they are constantly slapping their hands together to make a point, which is all you can hear other than the sounds of their discussions. Here is a little article on it.

We also went to Potala Palace (at least the outside) - its one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I have posted a picture of me by it so you can get an idea of its size, its 13 stories tall, and has over 1000 rooms. Today we have tickets to see the inside.

Other than that things are going OK, last night was rough as the altitude was really starting get to me. I woke short of breath a couple of times during the night (their is 70% less oxygen in the air here) and it can also affect your body in other ways (lets just say I wish I had a bathroom in my room instead of down two flights of stairs). I feel a little better this morning - so hopefully all will be OK.

We booked a Land Cruiser for Monday to take us to Nam Tso Lake which is I think about another 10,000 feet higher than Lhasa. It is a lake at the same elevation as the Everest Base Camp and from what people have said it is amazing, I will be sure to take a lot of pictures.

Thats all for now...

Quick update - I am in Tibet!!

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Just a quick update - I arrived in Lhasa, Tibet today around 11AM. There was a group of about seven westerners on the flight so we all stuck together after we landed. It is about a 2 hour drive from the airport the Lhasa, and getting transportation is difficult, especially since we were trying to stick together and everyone had a large backpack with them. Eventually we were able to obtain transportation to Lhasa on a rickety mini-bus driven by man who looked about 85 years old. He drove like he was 85 too, we were passed by just about everyone. When we arrived in Lhasa he tried to drop us off outside town near the temples, etc.. but one of the girls was knew a little bit of Chinese and also knew exactly where we were trying to get (based on a map in the guidebook) and she took charge to get him to take us to the old part of town where we are all staying. I was quite impressed to watch her speak a meager amount of Chinese, and still be able to talk this guy into taking us further than he wanted at the same price (Everyone here understands the basics like where you want to go when you say the name of a place, but they feign ignorance so they can do what they want to do).

Anyway Tibet is really amazing, reminds me of Alaska a little bit with all of the mountains, but the Tibetan architecture is amazing, and everything is so clean and nice it is really breathtaking. I plan to take about 100 pictures tomorrow and will try and post some before I depart.

For now I am just taking it easy - going to meet the two english guys from the bus in about 30 minutes and try and book a trip via land rover for about 2 days. I will post details if we get something booked. For now I am fighting Altitude Sickness - I am about 12,000 feet higher now than I was in Chengdu, and it is a very strange feeling. I am a little dizzy, and have a slight tingle everywhere... I did buy some chinese medicine (herbs, etc..) that is supposed to help, but the important thing is to stay hydrated and to rest for the first day or two.

Anyway the internet is fast (for Tibet at least) here so I will post more later tonight.

Leshan and the Big Buddha

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Today I took the bus to Leshan from Chengdu. It took about 2 hours each way on a bus designed for Asian legs, but I made it anyway. Once I got to the bus station I once again decided not to take the easy way and take a taxi, so I hopped on the local bus #13 (I did have a guidebook). It cost about 10 cents to ride, and dropped me off at the front of the entry place for the Buddha.

I spent most of the day walking around the Giant Buddha area - There were thousands of stairs and small gardens and temple like places all within the confines of the area. It cost 70 Yuan (about $9) to enter and was well worth it. I did get some good pictures but I am too lazy to get them off my camera right now. I walked around with some polish people (A group of about 6) as we were pretty much the only Non-Chinese at the place (although plenty of tourists). The picture I posted is not my own - but I wanted everyone to get an idea.

Around 2:00 I headed back to the bus office on the advice of the Poles, as they said that the buses can be full after about 4PM and it is possible to get stuck in Chengdu and have to hitchhike or pay an extremely expensive cab ride back to Changdu. I was thankfully able to get a ticket for the bus, but not until about 3:20, I was starving by this point so decided to try and get some food. Directly across from the bus station was what looked like basically a house with a garage, and inside the garage were some tables and a refrigerator. I continued what has basically been one long game of charades here in China and was able to tell the lady inside that I wanted food. We tried to use my Mandarin phrase book but that wasnt quite cutting it - she just kept pointing at the menu on the wall which was entirely in Chinese characters... eventually she had an idea and just opened the refrigerator and I pointed at what I wanted. I chose something that looked like chicken (but was definitely not) and something that looked like octopus (but I am pretty sure was not - although it had tentacles). The food was quite good - I ended up with two bowls of soup (containing my chosen meat) a bowl of rice, and some cooked cabbage. The next test was getting something to drink - they offered me two types of beer (it was all they had in the refrigerator) which I turned down... They did have some large glass jugs containing a yellow substance and a red substance... I pointed that yellowish one thinking it was tea - once I smelled it I knew it wasnt tea for sure - some sort of very strong alcohol... I found out how to say "alcoholic beverage" and "non-alcoholic" beverage and was able to get them to bring me a nice cold bottle of water which was exactly what I wanted... The meal was really good - and I took some pictures of the meal and the women to share later.. (it cost about $1.50 in all which was nice.)

I came home tonight to the hostel and paid the rest for my trip to Lhasa, Tibet. I am excited but a little nervous. The altitude is over 12,000 feet - and can really cause problems if you are not careful, the last place i want to be is some Chinese hospital being treated for altitude sickness. Anyway I think I will be fine - I have no idea what I am going to do while I am there yet - I suppose wander around and take pictures and try to sign up for some sort of tour if I can find one.

I suppose the other thing that is making me nervous is that I only have a one-way ticket currently. I have not decided whether I can make Beijing on my shortened schedule - but I will see. My hopes are to get a direct flight from Lhasa to Beijing, spend a day or two in Beijing and then get a flight back to Chengdu to catch my outbound flight to South Korea (I dont want to miss any more flights).

Well I am out for now - if anyone is reading this drop me an email and keep in touch - I will probably be stuck in my hotel room in Lhasa to adjust to the high altitude (most people say not to do anything for at least one day). I leave tomorrow on a 7:40 flight - arrives Lhasa at 9:40.

Finally in China

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I arrived today in Chengdu, China. Its quite a change from Thailand (Especially because Bangkok is a fairly modern city and is much more western). Anyway I decided to challenge myself and take the bus rather than take a taxi or be picked up. It was quite an adventure - The bus looked like it was built in the 1940s and was extremely slow and clunky. There are also basically no rules for driving in Chengdu - the bus simply honked to alert people it would be pulling across a street - there really appeared to be no stop signs or traffic lights that I could see, just a lot of cars slowly entering the intersection and trying not to run into each other (Intermixed with hundreds of bicycles and scooters going in various directions)There were lanes in most areas, but they were basically ignored in most areas, it was not uncommon to see about 3 lanes of cars all turning at the same time and trying to make themselves into one lane after they made it around the corner. In either case I made it safe to the hostel and thankfully i had printed a map of the area and with that and my basic hand signals I was able to make it without getting too lost.

There are very few foreigners in Chengdu, I think I saw only one other white person while I was in the airport. In the hostel of course there are about 20 or 30 foreigners (mostly Europeans I believe) but that is about it. I had to make a quest for an ATM from the hostel tonight which was also quite interesting. First Chengdu is very dirty, there is a haze of pollution over the city and the entire sky is white, you can only see about 1/8 of a mile at best. Other than that it is quite western (especially downtown) with various storefronts selling different products and a few skyscraper sized buildings (Population is about 4 million) thrown in. Again I didnt see any foreigners on my 20 minute walk - so being tall (relatively speaking), blond, and blue-eyed I am a bit of a novelty. I have caught a few people staring, but always with a smile on their face - I think they are happy to have tourists in their city.

Tomorrow I am taking the bus to Leshan to see the world's tallest Buddha which should be quite interesting. I have also booked my flight to tibet for Friday so I should be in Lhasa by Friday afternoon - its a one way ticket so I am not sure where I will be going from there, going to try and find my way to Beijing and then back to Chengdu in time to catch my flight to South Korea. I will try and get some pictures online tomorrow depending on how long this Leshan trip takes.

Last day in Bangkok

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Not too much going on today - just doing a little shopping in Bangkok for some gifts and clothes for myself then I might venture out and do some sightseeing before I leave. Breakfast was really good today - I am getting into eating like an Asian so I had Rice, and some sort of Thai dish (maybe chicken, basil, and green beans - very spicy). I also had a large iced coffee that was better than anything Starbucks has one the menu served from a street vendor.. Total price for breakfast $1.50.

Tomorrow I wake up early and catch the bus to the airport for a quick 3 hour flight to China. Then I think I will be there for about 2 days before heading to Lhasa, Tibet.

Bangkok day four and quick change of plans

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Ok - first for those of you who keeping track, I am NOT in China today. As was inevitable, I have missed my flight to Chengdu because i copied my itinerary down incorrectly. I did not realize that my flight was at 10:45AM until about Noon today... I contacted United and all is well, after a bit of work on my part today and a trip across Bangkok I have newly issued ticket to Chengdu on the 14th of this month (2 days later) at 10:45AM.

Bangkok Day Four

Today On and I went to the beach in Patayya - about 2.5 hours from Bangkok via bus. The buses here are very Unique, of course we got on a bus that stops on its way to Patayya rather than an express bus (Even locals mess up I guess) and we stopped about 10 times on the way to pick people up. By the end all of the seats were full and there were people crammed everywhere in the Aisles. Very efficient I supposes, although maybe not as safe as you would hope. We were fine as we were the first people on the bus and had seats the entire way.

The beaches here are quite nice - the back parts of them are covered with Chairs and Umbrellas for customers. About every 50 feet of beach is covered by someone who will watch for customers, set up chairs and umbrellas for you by the beach and get whatever food or drinks you want (from ice cream to fried rice). They also keep an eye on your valuables for you and we had no problems leaving our stuff under our table all day even when we took off swimming, etc.

We also rented a jet ski and took it out for a spin on the ocean, I have somehow never been on one before so it was great deal of fun, although I guess not very 'Thai'. Of course all in all the beach was the beach just like anywhere, so not a real difference from the states.

Well I guess there was one major difference... I have never seen elephants at the beach back home. Every so often someone would come by with an elephant on what is basically a leash. You could pay then some amount (not sure how much maybe $1) to get a bag of celery to feed to the elephant. I suppose in a lot of ways this was rather sad, but its not the first or last sad thing I will see here I suppose.

Well I think that pretty much catches me up - nothing too exciting on the horizon, maybe I will actually make it my first tourist site while I am here, I dont think I have done anything from my guidebook yet.

Bangkok day three

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OK going back a bit now as I have running around Thailand like a madman for the past three days and have not had time for to update.

Day Three was good - On took us to her friend Da's house and gave us instruction on how to cook. We took the local bus (all Thai's) to the market and bought all of the supplies. The market was about 30 minutes from Bangkok so we were a bit of a spectacle, many people would giggle when we walked by (especially since Brendan is rather pale and 6'5" tall). On translated for us so we could talk to some of the people in the market and they were all quite nice, they tried to guess our age and asked us a few questions.. We eventually left with about 10 bags full of supplies (which cost about $5 total).

Da runs her own accounting company out of the house and has about 5 employees who do accounting all day.. I also found out she has a coffee shop, steak house, and various other businesses. Her house was very nice and had a large kitchen. We had plenty of help during our cooking class as there were a number of Da's relatives running around and also her mother who was older and a master chef I am sure. I had a number of really nice pictures of the children and the family, but somehow my memory card became corrupt and I lost about 20% of my pictures, very disappointing (however I think Brendan has a couple of similar pictures so that is a little help).

After we cooked lunch we went to a local Buddhist temple. We bought some flowers, candles, incense, and paper with gold in it. The flowers you you place near the shrine, you burn the incense and candle for good luck (it also makes the entire temple area smell nice). Finally you rub the gold sheet somewhere on the Buddha (head, heart, stomach, etc..) and it is supposed to heal that part of you if you have a problem. It was very interesting, and nice because we were the only non-thai's in the temple because it is well outside of downtown bangkok.

Next we went to the market and looked at all the excellent food, and some materials. We bought tickets for a private boat ride, and also bought some snacks for the trip. (some sort of pickled Mango and some other fruit - not really my favorite). Our boat tour lasted about on hour and reminded me of the sights you see in movies about Vietnam - I felt like John Kerry on his gunboat only with less enemy fire (and fewer confirmed kills).

Finally we went out for dinner at a local Thai place, it was very nice (on and Da's favorite - it is surrounded by some sort of large farm that grows some type of plant in rows about 6 feet tall - so there are some very long walkways almost like a maze made out of plants). The food was sort of like Thai Fondue - you sit outside and they bring you a clay pot with some hard wood underneath of it and some soup broth. Then you add your vegetables, meat, etc.. to the soup mix and eat it (called Hot Pot in English). We had that and also some other Thai Curry, etc.. It was very nice - and again no other farang (foreigners) were around so you really feel like a Thai person - without On and Da we we would have never seen this because the menu is entirely in Thai (w/ no pictures) so I was very happy to have guide.

OK that is all I am posting for now - will try and get some pictures up later.

Ummm bangkok night two or three or something

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Must update quick today because I have to switch hostels, tonight is booked up where I have spent the last 3 days. It is actually OK because this place has a curfew of 2AM and I think I might stay up late Sunday night and try and watch a football game while I am here (they dont start until midnight or 1AM here). I caught the end of the first game around 10AM here yesterday and sat and talked to an American named Allen who was also watching the game. He was teaching English in southern Thailand and was in Bangkok for a taste of civilization.

Last night Brendan and I went to a Muay Thai fight, On (our tour guide) joined us for the match as well. It was nice to have a local with us because she could tell us a lot about the match, and also what people were saying etc.. Also lots of Farangs (Foreigners) attend Muay Thai fights, so of course there are a lot of people milling about near the arena that would like to help you spend your money.

The match was not all that exciting, no blood, no KOs, but still interesting to see. Also something you only want to catch once most likely as even our 3rd class seats cost 1000baht ($25) which is about what I spent the first 2 days I was here on accommodations and food. If you sit ringside the tickets cost 2000baht, the downside is that the ringside and 2nd class are all segregated so you sit with all foreigners if you sit in them. We were with a good mix of Thai and Farangs and the view was still quite excellent. Also as with everything in thailand, the locals probably pay 20 baht for ringside seats, but it is pointless to argue.

After the fight On took us to this outdoor eating/entertainment venue. I dont know what it was called (will have to ask) but it was the perfect choice. It was basically a couple of hundred plastic tables surrounded by food vendors (slightly more upscale permanents structures, a step above street vendors). You could also get beer and drinks. In the center was a huge stage with Thai performers which were good - not the typical thai old time dancing stuff, this was definitely for young people, they sang some Thai songs and also some american songs and they have lights, etc.. I will try to get some pictures up as I dont think I am doing it justice. We made sure On got home safe and Brendan and I headed back to our part of town (30 minute cab ride home = $3.50 split two ways - gotta love asia).

Today On who has basically become out personal tour guide at this point is teaching Brendan and I how to cook - I think it will be quite interesting. It serves everyone though I think, I get free authentic cooking instruction, and On gets to practice her English. Unfortunately she cannot cook spring rolls (doesnt have the equipment) so I wont get to learn that...

On another note of good luck Brendan leaves tomorrow for Singapore and then to Perth and Sydney Australia. He has some friends in Sydney and Melbourne he is visiting on exactly the same days as I will be in Australia and he has invited me to join him. I am happy for the offer as I had no idea what I was going to do in Australia it looks like once again I will get to hang out with some locals which always means more fun.

First Two days in Bangkok

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OK I am back. I passed out for about 11 hours - probably a mix of jet lag and a 6 hour bike ride. Lets see what have I done.

I arrived two nights ago into the craziness that is Khao San Road, I think I read in a number of guidebooks that this area is seen quite a bit in the movie the beach. Maybe today I will pretend I am Leonardo DeCaprio while I am walking around.

Asia is a welcome change from the prices in Denmark - the first night I made the following purchases:

"Diesel" watch $3.00
Travel alarm $1.50 (sorry Mom I forgot the nice one you gave me)
Plate of Pad Thai w/egg $.50

The next morning I woke up to take my bike tour which was really cool. I took a cab across the city for about 45 minutes which costs $5US. On the tour they took us all around various parts of Bangkok outside the main city where most tourists don't go. It was a good introduction to the city and I learned alot about how to order different food/fruit from the vendors so that I no longer have to guess what stuff is. We also took our bikes on a longboat across a river which was quite interesting.

So far I have learned a little Thai as well, have no idea what the words look like so I just say what it sounds like, phonetically the words appear to be:

long dong - some sort of small fruit you peel, tastes like grapefruit
Carp koon crab - thank you
sawadee crab - hello

I hope to improve my vocabulary today.

They took a lot of pictures during the trip and have already posted them online, they look pretty good http://www.realasia.net

The way home was also interesting, Brendan (the tall guy in the pictures - from Ireland) recommended I take one of the canal boats home. Now I could have taken a cab or tuk-tuk (small motorcycle style cab, like a motorized rickshaw) which most of the tourists do, but the canal boat sounded like fun. It was also cheap (about 30 cents) and part of the fun of being in Asia is seeing how little you can spend on things, its very addictive when you get here to see how cheaply you can live - I think I could easily get by on about $4 a day here if you only walked or used public transport (one stop on the metro cost me $.25), stayed in a slightly cheaper place, and ate vendor food.

The canal boat was the craziest part of the trip yet (and the first time I feared for my life). You start by going to the canal on a floating dock (pictured) then when the boat pulls up they draw it close to the dock for roughly 10 seconds everyone pushes into the boat and off it goes. Then you motor down the canal, and yesterday it was raining really hard and the waves were high enough we were catching air when going up the stream. I could barely see a thing because they had drawn up the tarps on the sides to stop the water from coming in. At some point a guy tapped me to pay, I handed him some coins (about $.50) and he handed me back some other coins and a paper ticket - I have no idea when I was supposed to get off. After a couple of smaller stops there was a mandatory stop and everyone got off. At that point you have to catch another boat by hopping off and waiting at the dock again for the next boat. Of course the entire time on this trip I was the only white person getting on and off these boats, although I hardly felt like people were staring like I do in some other countries. In case anyone wants to look it up the name of the canal is Kiong San Sap. I have also added a picture of the boat so you can get an idea (another one I didn't take).

On a general note the Thais are very nice. Thailand is known as the "land of smiles" (yes I know some of you may think of something else when you think of Thailand) and they really live up to it. When I was biking back on the trip a young guy directing traffic smiled at me and I smiled back - As I biked by he tapped my arm with his traffic signal, just to say hello in way. It was very nice and the Thai people are very welcoming in general. I also spoke to an older gentleman who was well educated (He knew more about the US government than me and was excited to show off his talent to me, by telling me about the house or representatives, congress, etc..) I spoke to him about the Thai and US economies for about 30 minutes and learned quite a bit. Of course there are still a million people trying to sell you things and get you to ride in their cabs, etc.. but the touts have not been as bad as I thought they would be.

Tonight Brendan and I are going to a Muay Thai fight at Lumphini stadium which should be pretty cool, I am excited about it.

OK that is all my updates for the time being more in the next couple of days...

I am officially in Bangkok

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A bit overwhelming at first... Lots of music, people everywhere, and the smell of foreign food... I dont know how to describe it. Anyway flight was delayed until 3AM so I just got into Bangkok around 8PM tonight. Going to walk around and try and make myself tired since I slept on the plane and have only really been awake for about 6 hours.

Here is a pic of the street I am staying on (just one block off it) and what my first experience was like in Thailand. I did not take the picture.

Almost done in Copenhagen

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Today I went on a Tourist Extravaganza so that I would be sure there was never another reason to go back to Copenhagen. I went to all of the top touristy things because I am here alone and there really isnt all that much else to do in a big city for one day. Anyway it was pretty entertaining I suppose, although Denmark doesnt really have any super well know tourist sites...

I will say one thing - they might win a prize for the lamest tourist attraction - The little mermaid (pictured) .. Its the national symbol for Denmark and this website compares it to the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty - that might be a bit of an overstatement. Anyway apparently people fly and drive thousands of miles just to see this thing - and many insist on having their picture taken with it (as you can see from the picture). I happened to find it basically on accident on a bike ride so I decided to snap a picture - I didnt bother waiting for the lady to get the hell out of the way since I think some pasty tourist standing in front of it really says what the little mermaid is all about.

Anyway the other architecture and sites were much more interesting and I did manage to take some nice pictures otherwise.


Pictures are posted

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Sweet Jumps in Denmark

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Today I arrived in Copenhagen after a 1.5 hour bus ride and then a 4 hour train ride. I read for most of the journey although I did look out the window for a little while. Denmark has some interesting architecture and there were some interesting cities on the way such as Aalborg which appeared to be a college town.

Its amazing how ubiquitous bikes are here there are way more bikes than cars and everyone is very respectful of the right of way for cyclists. They also provide free bikes for tourists, just pop in a 20 kroner coin (3$US) and you can take a bike and get your coin back when you are done. I uploaded a picture of my trusty bike, I think the Danes really get annoyed when they get passed by a crazy person on a crappy free bike but whatever. Actually in my observations I believe this may have been the 3rd best bike in Copenhagen. Most of the people here are riding pretty old crappy bikes, but then again when a beer costs almost $10US who can afford a bike, they probably cost $4000.

I am in an internet cafe now because I dont want to go back to the hostel. I stopped in briefly and dropped of my bag, my room already smelled like B.O. at 4PM and someone was sleeping. I am in Wing C, Room 20, Bed 05, which is one of over 520 beds. I am hoping I am really tired tonight after my walking/biking tour as the inevitable sound of snoring and smell of unwashed traveler will be there to greet me. Of course my bed only cost $20 vs, $100 for a 1 star hotel downtown so I suppose it is worth it.

Here is where I am staying in case anyone is interested, or this mysteriously becomes my last post..

http://www.danhostel.com/vandrerhjem.asp?lan=uk&id=92

OK I suppose I am out of here for now...

Tomorrow I am on a 10:45 PM flight to Bangkok, Thailand. I am only there for one night then I am taking an overnight train to Chiang Mai. In case of emergency here is my hostel information, although I will probably post one more time tomorrow as I have 14 hours to kill in Copenhagen and I think I have already seen everything.

Bangkok Hostel - Shambara Hostel
138 Tanao Road
Talad, Yad, Phanakorn, Thailand
+66 2 2 2877968

Chaing Mai - Seven Suns,
155 Ratchamanka Rd
Chiang Mai, Thailand
+66.53.814325


Comments are now turned on

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And just so you know I have to approve each one before it appears so dont get any funny ideas...

Thisted

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Wow Pictures from the road... I am going to take adavantage of having access to a computer and upload a picture. This is Anna's parents at their house in Thisted. They have been very nice and cooked an excellent dinner for me. They also taught me a little bit about Danish history (and of course beat me up about George Bush). We had a lot of vegetables, as well as some sort of beef, some red wine, and ice cream for dessert. (Anna's father is the manager of a large ice cream factory here in Thisted). I also had some fresh picked grapes from their greenhouse which were amazing and much better than anything you can get in a store (fresh grapes have very thin skins and are much juicier - the ones in the store need to have thick skins so they can be transported. I will put todays journeys in a longer post to follow.


More Travels in Denmark

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I have travelled about 5 hours into Denmark since landing... Spent last night in Arhus with Anna and her boyfriend Dennis - there was a large festival.. slept in today then headed to Anna's Parents house in Thisted. I will fill in more later when I have time..

I made it

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Just a quick update for those that worry (mom).. I made it safely to the Copenhagen Airport - will be leaving here at 12:40 local time on a train to Arhus - should be there áround 4PM..